Monday, April 6, 2009


I was planning to go to Dharamshala last week but people flaked. I can’t help but think "A" felt sorry for me and gave in to my whine to go on a “short” road trip to Munnar, a mountainous area with tea estate in the state of Kerala. It turned out Munnar is no where close to “short”.

Thinking the whole drive will take about 8 hours, we started off from Bangalore at 1pm. The first 3.5 hours of the drive wasn’t bad since the highway was fairly flat and properly tarred. We stopped at a small town call Salem for some tasteless, stale sandwiches and I called the hotel in Munnar only to find out that it would take another 7 hours to reach. Not paying too much attention to that statement, we drove on but took a wrong turn, went too far ahead to turn back and ended up at a town call Madurai.

What’s driving on an Indian highway like? Imagine you’re going 120km/hr (speed limit according to the road signs is 50km/hr) and vehicles of all sizes (i.e. motorcycles, enormous lorries and bullock carts) haphazardly coming from the opposite direction, when there is a divider that clearly separates traffic for each directions. Now imagine this scenario post-sunset with no street lights. Hence, to pamper ourselves, we decided to spend a night at Madurai at a super sweet hotel call Taj Garden Retreat.

Taj Garden Retreat (or now known as Gateway Hotel) is peacefully located on a 64 acre hilltop on beautifully landscaped grounds with white colonial bungalows converted to hotel rooms. Facilities include swimming pool with a stunning view of town, tennis court, and a tour around the estate. The standard rooms were taken, so we splurged a little and went with the executive room priced at about Rs9000/night.

Apparently, there are about 80 or so tame peacocks running lose in this estate.

Sri Meenakshi Temple – open 7am-7pm but close for visitors from 12noon-4pm. Since we got here at 2:30pm, we were not allowed into the temple but the exterior of the temple was equally gorgeous.

Just like any functioning Indian temple, you will have to cover your shoulders and knees. If you find yourself in shorts, you can buy a dhoti for Rs100 in the temple complex.

Negotiating with temple guards to enter.

The drive from Madurai to Munnar supposedly takes about 5 hours, but we didn’t get to Munnar till about 9 hours later because it would be too easy if we did. When we reached the foothills of Munnar, we were told the road is closed during the day for the whole month because the roads needed tarring.


It was worth the wait. Munar is like a never ending rolling mountain with beautifully manicured tea plantation. We stayed at Tall Tree Resort, which was a bit difficult to find in the dark but offers a pretty good deal with its cottage rooms that includes all meals and activities.

Tall Tree resort

One of the two very hard treks we did brought us all the way up the mountain top. At some point of the trek, I thought I was going to slip on a pebble and die. The last time I worked so hard on a trek was the 7-hour hike on the French Alps in Grenoble with Monsieur Granger (Helena’s father-in-law). After about climbing about 2 hours, we reached here.

It was sad to leave Munnar after only staying for only 2 days but "A" thought we should head out early since it will take us about 2 days to drive back but of course we both know he was super thrilled about go-karting in Coimbatore’s Kari Motor Speedway race track. In uneventful Coimbatore, we spent a night at the nicest hotel in town call The Residency at Rs6000/night. The following morning, we were somehow given the wrong directions and got lost and never made it to the race track. I could tell "A" was upset but he got over it quickly because we were heading back to Bangalore in time to catch the Mouse on Mars concert, which turned out to be awesome and I don’t even like electronic music.

1 comment:

Weng said...

Sounded like a long long but fun trip.